The Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences

MCIBS - Student-mentor relationship

Guidelines for a productive and positive relationship between graduate student and mentor
Doctoral training involves working long-term with the chosen thesis adviser. This mentoring relationship involves commitments and responsibilities from both student and mentor.

Here are suggested guidelines:

Effective mentoring, open communication, and ethical professional conduct are essential for a high quality graduate education and research environment. Effective mentoring must be based on a commitment to provide every student access to supportive guidance on a range of professional, ethical and collegial issues. A productive mentorship requires that students are treated respectfully and fairly, and that the mentor serves as a role model—upholding the highest ethical standards. These guidelines embody many of the best practices used by the majority of our faculty here and elsewhere. They are intended to provide a heightened awareness of the need to consciously establish an effectual mentorship that starts with trust, courtesy, and shared expectations.

Faculty Advisors/Mentors will:

-    provide an environment that is intellec- tually stimulating, emotionally supportive, safe, and free of harassment;

-    be supportive, equitable, accessible, encouraging, and respectful;

-    recognize and respect the cultural backgrounds of students;

-    be sensitive to the power imbalance in the student–advisor relationship;

-    avoid assigning duties or activities that are outside students’ academic responsibilities or are detrimental to the timely completion of their degrees;

-    respect students needs to allocate their time among competing demands, while maintaining timely progress towards their degree;

-    advise graduate students on the selection of a thesis topic with realistic prospects for successful completion within an appropriate time frame;

-    assist students on selecting and forming a thesis committee;

-    set clear expectations and goals for students regarding their research and thesis;

-    discuss policies and expectations for work hours, vacation time and health contingen- cies;

-    meet regularly and individually with students to provide feedback on research progress and expectations (weekly meetings are recommended);

-    provide students with training and oversight in the design of research projects, the development of necessary skills, the use of rigorous research techniques, and all other aspects of research;

-    arrange for the on-campus supervision and advisement of graduate students during extended absences as well as regular contact (e.g. by phone) when possible;

-    provide and discuss clear criteria for authorship at the beginning of all collaborative projects;

-    encourage participation in professional meetings and try to secure funding for such activities;

-    provide career advice, help with interview and application preparation, and write letters of recommendation in a timely manner;

-    ensure students receive training in the skills needed for a successful career in their discipline, including oral and written communica- tion and grant preparation;

-    schedule at least one meeting each semester to discuss topics other than research, like professional development, career objectives and opportunities, climate, laboratory personnel relations, and so on;

-    be a role model by acting in an ethical, professional, and courteous manner toward other students, staff, and faculty.


Graduate Students will:

-    acknowledge that they bear the primary re- sponsibility for the successful completion of their degree;

-    exercise the highest ethical standards in all aspects of their research, including collection, storage, analysis, and communication of research data;

-    complete to the best of their abilities all tasks assigned by the department, including teaching duties;

-    be informed about regulations and policies governing graduate studies at the department and graduate school levels and take responsibility for meeting departmental and graduate school deadlines;

-    set up meetings with their mentor and communicate regularly with their thesis committees;

-    prepare progress reports and request feedback from their full committee annually;

-    be considerate of time constraints and other demands imposed on faculty and staff;

-    take an active role in identifying and pursuing professional development opportunities;

-    be proactive about improving their research skills, including written and oral presentation skills;

-    inform faculty mentors of potential and or existing conflicts and work toward their resolution;

-    seek mentoring and support resources beyond their faculty advisor, including other faculty mentors, peers, and organizations;

-    consult outside help from ombudsmen, graduate chairs, or other faculty if conflicts arise with your advisor;

-    be aware that if they feel compelled to change advisors or research direction, they may have options and should consult with their mentor or department;

-    always act in an ethical, professional, and courteous manner toward other students, staff, and faculty.

Guidelines developed by the Eberly College of Science Climate and Diversity Committee

A similar set of recommendations was developed by the graduate school, and it is also helpful to take a look at that!